Latin America: “Widespread Change in a Historically Catholic Region”
A study entitled: “Religion in Latin America: Widespread Change in a Historically Catholic Region” was conducted by the Pew Research Center, headquartered in Washington, and published on November 13, 2014. Based on 30,000 face-to-face interviews in the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries of Latin America (with the exception of Cuba) between October 2013 and February 2014, the study shows that the Catholic Church started to decline significantly since the 1970’s, while at the same time the numbers of Protestants and those without religion increased. Today 69% of adults identify themselves as Catholic, as opposed to at least 90% from 1900 until the 1960’s.
In almost all the countries surveyed, the Catholic Church experienced clear losses, for many Latinos have joined Protestant Evangelical churches or rejected Catholicism. Thus, almost one out of four in Nicaragua, one out of five Brazilians and one out of seven Venezuelans are former Catholics. Almost one out of ten Latin Americans says that he was raised a Protestant, but one out of five is Protestant today. And although almost 4% of Latin Americans said that they were raised without any religion, 8% today say that they have no religious affiliation at all. Most of the conversions from Catholicism to Protestantism in Latin America took place in a single lifetime.
Catholics still make up more than two-thirds of the population in 9 of the 18 Latin American countries and one North American territory (Puerto Rico) that were surveyed. In all, Latin America today has 425 million Catholics, almost 40% of the total Catholic population in the world.
The study also shows that Pope Francis enjoys great popularity in Latin America, with more than two-thirds reporting positive opinions. In Argentina, his popularity rating hits 98%. In the countries surveyed, at least half of the Catholics say that they have a “very favorable” opinion of the Holy Father. Nevertheless, the authors of the report explain that ex-Catholics are more skeptical of the Pope than those who are still within the Catholic Church today.
Those taking the survey asked the ex-Catholics who had converted to Protestantism about the reasons for their change. The reasons most often mentioned were the need for a more personal relationship with God and a different style of worship. As for moral issues such as abortion, extramarital relations, divorce, and same-sex marriage, Latin American Catholics tend to be less conservative than the Protestants. This is considered another reason for converting to Protestantism, given that 60% of adults who left the Catholic Church did so in order to find a denomination that “places greater importance on living a moral life”.
Generally speaking, both Catholics and Protestants living in Latin America are more conservative than the Hispanics living in the United States. Thus 25% of Protestant Hispanics and 49% of Catholic Hispanics in the United States approve of same-sex marriage, whereas in Latin American countries, except for Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico and Chile, the support for homosexual “marriage” is less than 20% among Protestants and less than 40% among Catholics.
The study also shows that the religious movement that has developed the most during recent decades in Latin America is Pentecostalism, which insists on personal contact with the Holy Spirit through healings, speaking in tongues, and visions.... Some specialists consulted by the Pew Research Center think that there are two main reasons explaining this trend: the compatibility of Pentecostalism with the indigenous religions and the fact that many Latin Americans see Pentecostalism as a way to economic prosperity.
But it is no secret to anyone that the expansion of Protestantism in Brazil, in particular the Pentecostal branch of it, has been accompanied by a very anti-Catholic perspective.... The Catholic Church is supposedly synonymous with idolatry, since the Pope is the Antichrist, as Adenilton Turquete, a former pastor who had been baptized in the Assembly of God in Brazil and now converted to Catholicism, told the news agency Aleteia. The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG), founded in 1977 in Rio de Janeiro, is devoted to preaching the Theology of Prosperity; it exalts wealth, encourages the desire to enjoy material goods, and also glorifies well-being in this world. Nevertheless, according to the logic of these Pentecostal churches, prosperity depends on the believer’s act of faith, and this is measured by the tithe and the offerings that he makes. Most members of this UCKG, like all adherents to Brazilian Pentecostalism, occupy the lowest places in the social pyramid. The funds of the Assembly of God come from the faithful themselves, from their tithes and offerings.
The countries that appear to be the most Catholic are Mexico (81% Catholics and 9% Protestants) and Paraguay (89% Catholics and 7% Protestants). Uruguay proved to be the most secular country on the continent; 42% identify as Catholics and 37% claim to be atheists, agnostics or without religious affiliation. “In Latin America the Pentecostals are snatching millions of believers from the Catholic Church. But the Pope has nothing but friendly words for them. This is his way of practicing ecumenism...,” Sandro Magister commented on November 19. During the visit of his friend, Evangelical pastor Giovanni Traettino, in Caserte on July 28 of this year, Pope Francis gave a speech on his view of ecumenism which the Vaticanist presents as “a sort of universal Church in the shape of a polyhedron, of which the Catholic Church would be one of the faces, on an equal footing with the other Churches and denominations.” And he explains: “It is unclear how Francis harmonizes this concept, which is his own, with what has been declared by the previous Magisterium of the Church on the subject of ecumenism.” --What can we say then about a supposed continuity with the Encyclical of Pius XI Mortalium animos (January 6, 1928) “On the Unity of the True Church”?
(Sources: apic/pewforum/chiesa/aleteia – DICI no. 307 dated December 19, 2014)